USAID ERA suports Ukrzaliznytsia employees complete kaizen training to optimize production

Increasing Capabilities
Increasing Opportunities
19 June 2024

USAID, through its Economic Resilience Activity (USAID ERA) supported 22 Ukrzaliznytsia (UZ) representatives working in wagon maintenance plants complete a Kaizen Training in Kyiv aimed at optimizing and improving processes.  

Ukrzaliznytsia requested this training conducted by the Lean Institute of Ukraine and implemented by the organization International Development Foundation with the support of USAID ERA’s grant called “Workforce Development for Ukraine”. 

Before the training, participants completed a theoretical online section called the Lean Yellow Belt Basic course so that during the practical training they could dive right in. The practical training took place at the UZ repair and assembly shop where the inefficiencies were identified in real time and theories for testing more efficient processes also happened on the spot.  

Volodymyr Romanenko, Head of the repair and assembly shop shared, “Wagon repairs are time sensitive. Streamlining these processes at our site will reduce the wagon’s idle period, allowing it to transport more cargo, including grain. Some of the ideas I heard today are quite simple to implement, they will save time, and are possible.” 

Serhii Komberianov, President of the Lean Institute of Ukraine, notes, “To raise workforce productivity, we need to remove unnecessary movements and actions, this will help keep employees engaged, particularly at state-owned enterprises. We do not need more workers; we just need to be able to do more with less to solve the workforce shortage. And at the same time, we will focus on preserving employee health. When things like this are highlighted in a training, the solutions seem easy, and they don’t require investing money! Automation and additional robotics tools are very expensive, not everyone can afford it. For businesses to succeed, inefficiencies must first be removed then additional investments can be made. This is why we train our employees to be as efficient as possible, review processes, and remove excess.” 

Kaizen Trainings to optimize UZ processes and allow employees to inspect and repair wagons more efficiently will ultimately benefit Ukrainian agribusinesses move agricultural goods.  


Agricultural companies advance their skills on maintaining grain quality at elevators

Increasing Capabilities
10 May 2024

In April, 56 employees from two agricultural companies, Nibulon and Grain Alliance (Baryshivka Grain Company), completed an online training course on how to ensure grain safety and quality, control grain diseases, and manage the storage conditions of the elevator for export. USAID supported the training through a grant “Development of Labor Potential for Ukraine,” implemented by the International Development Foundation and run by the Postgraduate Education Institute of the National University of Food Technologies 

This course helped specialists master modern grain storage methods and laboratory analysis to preserve quality for further export to customers worldwide.  

Participants analyzed the grain quality, focusing on identifying grain diseases, including how to identify diseases, their impact on seed quality, and preventive measures. They also learned about the peculiarities of disinfecting agricultural products and storage facilities, managing food safety, and drying.  

Nibulon one of the largest agricultural companies in Ukraine, brought 26 employees to the course, including Anna Piskun, a top-quality engineer of the Department of Organization and Quality Control of their Bessarabia branch. Ms. Piskun noted

“The quality of the grain greatly influences its resale value. In order to maintain high quality, it is important to follow the rules at every stage of the process, starting with transferring grain to the elevator, its proper storage, and further transshipment for export. Izmail is currently the main route through which Nibulon transfers grain worldwide, so we pay special attention to the final stage of grain transshipment for export and ensure adherence to quality requirements contracted with partners. The training from USAID was very informative for our team, as it updated our knowledge on grain, oilseed, and legume crop requirements, as well as the specifics of exporting grain batches in terms of international standards and food safety requirements.” 

Kernel’s specialists learn modern grain storage technologies 

Increasing Capabilities
Increasing Opportunities
17 January 2024

Forty-six of Kernels quality control specialists took part in a modern grain storage training between December 4-15, 2023. The training was facilitated by the experts of National University of Food Technologies and supported by USAID Economic Resilience Activity (ERA). It was held within the framework of “Workforce Development for Ukraine”, a project implemented by the International Development Foundation. Kernel specialists learned how to use modern technologies and equipment correctly. Moreover, they learned how to properly control the quality of grain storage in an elevator.

The training consisted of theoretical and practical review of the following topics: 

  • Grain quality control and storage conditions. 
  • Important questions about quality control during grain unloading and storing. 
  • Sampling and preparation of grain samples for analysis including, sampling techniques, and understanding the differences between using the automatic and manual sampling dipsticks. 
  • Setting general quality parameters of grain and seed material. 
  • Technology of long-term grain storage. 

Special features, approaches, and temperature monitoring. Risks of grain deterioration during storage, main aspects of quality alteration. 

We are sincerely grateful for the opportunity to participate in the training for specialists of grain laboratories and elevators. The training was very important, interesting, and motivating. USAID ERA helped our employees develop existing knowledge, learn new information about modern control methods, uptodate laboratory equipment, global quality, and food safety requirements. Also, it was very useful to hear competent answers from experts of the harmonization and correlation between the state standards of Ukraine and international standards. The training motivated elevator specialists to promote food safety in Ukraine and other parts of the world.” says Maryna Tiunova, Head Quality Control Specialist of Kernel. 

In total, 2,000 employees will be trained within the framework of Workforce Development Project according to the plan by June 2024. This number includes specialists of manufacturing companies and personnel of educational institutions, who train specialists for Ukrainian economy. 

ERA grantees recognized as best community practices

Increasing Capabilities
23 December 2021

USAID Economic Resilience Activity (ERA) facilitated an awards ceremony for finalists in the Best Practices of Local Self-government in 2021 competition organized by the Ministry of Community and Territorial Development of Ukraine.

The competition committee selected 28 winning projects in three areas: Community Cohesion, Organization of the Health Care System at the Local Level in the Context of Health Care Reform, and Implementation of Strategic Development Projects. Six best practices were selected from Donetsk Oblast, two of which are supported by ERA.

Mariupol Business Development Center for Support of Small and Medium Business (SME Support Center) won in the nomination group “City Councils with a Population from 50,000 to 500,000 Citizens” for creation of a sustainable infrastructure system, as well as promotion and support of MSMEs.

The SME Support Center has worked since March 2020 providing business consulting and training services for startup entrepreneurs and helps raise money for development of small business in Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast. In 2021 the center received computers and furniture as a grant from ERA.

“Over the years of SME Support Center operation, more than 120 citizens of Mariupol were trained at the School of Entrepreneurship, and 300 citizens of the city received consulting services on startups or development of business. We are proud of receiving this award, and will continue to develop small business in Mariupol,” said Dmytro Dresviannikov, Executive Director of the SME Support Center.

Startup Center 1991 won second place in the same nomination group for creation of conditions for development and professional growth of youth, as well as implementation of innovative solutions.

Startup Center 1991 is the first IT incubator in eastern Ukraine. Social Boost public organization, in partnership with Mariupol City Council and ERA, coordinated to set up the center in 2019. Over two years of operation, the center has promoted 20 startups, 11 of which continue to work on their projects. The most promising projects have received UAH 300,000 in financial assistance. Two startups entered the market and today their capital is about UAH 2 million.

“The most important component of new project success is comprehensive support from the municipality. One of the key priorities of Mariupol City Council is digital transformation and development of the IT sector. That is why the city is creating the most favorable conditions for development of projects such as Startup Center 1991,” said Viktor Hurskyi, co-founder and CEO of Social Boost.

The teams of Startup Center 1991 and Social Boost have adopted a new format for working with technological projects. Startups are now residents of a venture studio, where they will work for a year on developing their own businesses, searching for investments, and scaling up products.

ERA holds forum on social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility

Increasing Capabilities
10 November 2021

USAID Economic Resilience Activity (ERA) in partnership with NGOs SiLab and Kharkiv Professional Development Foundation organized a two-day hybrid online/in-person forum on social entrepreneurship.

Over 150 participants attended the event, including social entrepreneurs who are successfully developing businesses in different regions of Ukraine, representatives of local authorities, representatives of ERA, international organizations, and funds that invest in the development of social entrepreneurship in Ukraine. Approximately 100 participants participated in the forum sessions online.

The aim of the forum was to identify priority vectors of social entrepreneurship ecosystem development in the eastern regions of Ukraine.

Experts from Germany, Latvia, and Georgia spoke about the development of social entrepreneurship in their countries. According to the experts, there are now more than 13.5 million people working in social enterprises in the European Union, and 17 EU countries grant the status of the social entrepreneur.

In Latvia, popular legislation supports social entrepreneurship. Diana Lapkis from Latvia, chairman of the board of the New Door accelerator for social entrepreneurs, said that at first social entrepreneurs were registered just like other enterprises but a commission eventually decided to give them the specific status of the social entrepreneur.

In Germany, 90 percent of social entrepreneurs must attract external funding (usually from the government), and 60 percent need support outside support in legal matters. Social entrepreneurs in Germany are highly regarded by the public and considered social innovators who influence positive change and the future. They say they need support from the state, not regulation. However, in Germany, social entrepreneurs do not have preferential status.

Education in the field of social entrepreneurship was also discussed during the forum sessions, including topics such as how to learn through accelerators, incubators, school education, and universities.

At a fair of social enterprises held during the forum, 30 social entrepreneurs presented and sold their products, talked about their activities, and met new partners and experts to promote their ideas and projects. They make craft products (cheese, tea, confectionery, wooden souvenirs), teach young people creative entrepreneurship (making T-shirts, sweatshirts, souvenirs), and employ people with disabilities.

Topics on the second day of the forum included corporations and social enterprises, corporate social responsibility, opportunities for win-win cooperation, and how to attract resources for the development of social enterprises. The speakers emphasized that sharing success stories of implemented projects inspires others and creates synergies, collaborations, and partnerships. They advised using a variety of different communication channels to promote ideas and initiatives.

The forum also discussed how to attract resources for the development of social entrepreneurship. Participants presented their experience of raising money through crowdfunding, grant programs, and loans.

ERA organizes study tour on niche business model

Increasing Capabilities
22 September 2021

Fifteen eastern Ukrainian entrepreneurs made a study tour to Kherson Oblast with USAID Economic Resilience Activity (ERA) support.

Previously, the selected entrepreneurs completed a program on niche marketing. During online lectures, they learned what a business niche is, why it is important to develop a network of business relationships, how to use the network and re-profile the business during a downturn.

The tour participants visited OSA food production in Kherson, learning about the technology of making dumplings and other semi-finished products. They also visited Kurin farm vineyard and winery in the village of Stepanovka in Kherson Oblast, and saw how salad vegetables are grown on the Kishchenko family farm. In the village of Liubymivka, Kakhovka district in Kherson Oblast, they learned about growing saffron and its use in industry and at home. The group visited a blacksmith’s and got to know how green tourism helps attract new customers. In the village of Kairy in Kherson Oblast, they learned how to grow loofah (natural sponges) and asked about the contribution of entrepreneurs to the environment.

“I plan to reorient my business from industrial to craft production, as such products are now more in demand. I understand that this will require other approaches to work, but it is worth it. I am pleased to have taken part in this tour,” said Volodymyr Zhulynskyi, one of the participants.

During the trip, the participants established business contacts, and some agreed on further cooperation.

“Such tours are very useful, because they allow you to see how entrepreneurs work not only in your own niche, but in different or connected ones. In this way, people begin to think creatively, coming up with new ideas that they can implement in their work. New business contacts also appear, cooperation is born, and this is the purpose of such study tours,” said Kateryna Chechel, entrepreneur and tour organizer partner.